- We're perfectly aware that VPNs can help you evade a lot of monitoring by cloaking your IP address, but can VPN hide your MAC address?
- To put it shortly, VPNs can't spoof your MAC address, and doing so would be pointless. MAC addresses have low applicability when it comes to attacks, and we'll tell you all about it.
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We’re perfectly aware that VPNs can help you evade a lot of monitoring by cloaking your IP address, but can VPN hide your MAC address? Note that we’re talking about MAC, as in Media Access Control address, not the device.
If you already know what MAC is and how it can affect your online privacy, you can use the table of content controls on the left to skip the boring, technical stuff.
However, we promise to be short and deliver concise, down-to-earth details about this topic.
What is a MAC address?
A MAC address is similar to an IP address, because both are crucial when it comes to identification, but only to a certain degree. IP address is a more loose concept, where different devices can have the same IP address at some point in history.
MAC addresses, on the other hand, are device-bound and, as a result, unique. A MAC consists of six pairs of hexadecimal digits, which are either separated by colons or hyphens, or they’re not separated at all.
As opposed to MAC addresses, IPs (IPv4, that is) consist of four groups of digits, each group containing up to three digits. These groups are separated by a simple dot.
Compared to the uniqueness of MAC addresses, IPs come from finite number pools. To clarify things even more, there are exactly 4,294,967,296 IPv4 addresses.
However, it’s worth mentioning that even MAC addresses are finite. It’s only that their number is far higher than the amount of possible IPv4 addresses.
Since they’re 48-bit addresses, you can determine the amount of possible MAC addresses by solving 2 power 48. We’ll spoil the result for you. It’s 281,474,976,710,656. Yes, that’s almost 281 trillion and a half.
Can VPN hide MAC addresses?
To put it shortly, VPNs can’t spoof your MAC address, and doing so would be pointless. Masking your MAC address would only make sense if you want to protect yourself from other users on the same network.
More so, Windows has (or used to have) a built-in MAC address randomizer that would spoof your real MAC address in settings.
Alternatively, you could use one of the various MAC spoofing tools on the Internet, or look up a tutorial on how to change your MAC quickly and without messing everything up.
So we say it again: a VPN can’t hide your MAC address. Why? Because it would be pointless.
But, if you want to have an extra-layer of protection and benefit of other cool features of a VPN, we strongly recommend you to use a truly private VPN. Here are the benefits of using a VPN:
- Advanced privacy protection
- Secured applications, not just your web browser
- Block unwanted connections
- High grade encryption
Is giving out your MAC address dangerous?
Usually, someone else knowing your MAC address shouldn’t be much of a security threat. It’s far less dangerous than someone knowing your public IP address, for instance.
If someone were to have your public IP address, you could be targeted by a wide variety of attacks. The most common attack would be a DDOS since it doesn’t take much to achieve.
Or, if you’re unfortunate enough, you could be targeted by a more severe attack, which could escalate in the perpetrator gaining full remote access to your device and handle it in a broad variety of ways.
However, an attacker can’t do much by simply knowing your MAC address. Let’s say that it has the same level of threat as someone knowing your real name online.
If you still have doubts about the dangers of someone else knowing your MAC, let’s tell you what’s the worst that could happen.
1. Forcing a deauth attack
If you’re connected to a wireless network and the attacker is well aware of your MAC address, they could force you to deauthenticate from your network. And maybe even prevent you from reconnecting by using the same MAC address.
However, note that this can only work if the attacker is either physically near your WiFi network or on the same network as you. Thus, someone random on the Internet can’t do much by simply being aware of your MAC address.
2. Match your MAC with a vendor
Alright, that’s not exactly dangerous, but if you want to keep what kind of device you use on the hush, it’s best not to make your MAC address public.
There are a lot of tools and tables that you can use to identify the device type that’s using a certain MAC address. These tools are mostly used by confused users who don’t exactly know who made the components inside their system.
However, a MAC identification tool can also be used by an attacker that wants to target only specific devices on the network by matching their MAC address to a known database of devices.
3. Impersonating your router
If the attacker were in your proximity, they could replicate the MAC address of your router. This, in turn, could help facilitate a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack.
In this type of attack, the attacker could make your current device believe it’s connected to your safe, regular router.
In fact, your PC could be connected to another device that the attacker cleverly disguised as your router by merely cloning the MAC address.
All your traffic would then pass through the attacker’s device and you’d have no idea. This is by far the most dangerous type of MAC-type attack.
However, as you’d expect, the attacker needs to be really close to your router or be relatively close and use a signal booster or some different signal amplification device.
Furthermore, your device might pick up two different access points, and one of them is likely to be insecure (without a password). Thus, it would be quite obvious that someone was trying to trick you.
4. Gaining MAC-based clearance on various systems
This one is a bit of a stretch, but it could happen just like any other attack. If you’re using some software that uses MAC-based identification to grant you access, someone else cloning your MAC address could be a real threat.
For instance, if you’re on a MAC-restricted network that uses no other type of identification. If someone were to replicate your MAC address, the network would give that user clearance.
And that’s about it. Although it seems like a lot of attacks, the fact that the perpetrator needs to be nearby is quite offputting and makes it both harder to achieve and a lot more obvious to the one that’s being attacked.
A VPN can’t hide your MAC address
To wrap things up nice and tidy, VPNs are generally not capable of hiding your MAC address. We say generally because we haven’t yet heard of one that can do that. We’re pretty confident they don’t exist, but we can’t take any chances.
However, even if a VPN lacks MAC spoofing capabilities, it’s not a big deal. Changing your MAC address could only protect you from users that are on the same network as you, or awfully close (physically) to your router.
For these situations, we strongly advise you to avoid public WiFi networks, use strong passwords for your personal home router, and try to avoid letting people settle too close to your router for obvious reasons.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, a trustworthy VPN can and will hide your location without asking twice. You just choose a server you wish to use and the VPN will make it seem like your PC has the same location as the server.
A VPN should automatically hide your IP address, but if you want to hide the VPN’s address, then you could use a proxy or Tor.
If you mean whether or not can your ISP still track you while using a VPN, then the answer is no. Your ISP can know if you’re using a VPN but will have no clue as to what you’re actually doing online.